Bioplastics are becoming a burgeoning industry as the cost of oil climbs and the disastrous nature of petroleum-based plastics is revealed in full effect. This past Monday Metabolix announced an incredible development: they have found a way to generate “significant amounts” of ecologically-sound bioplastic by growing it in directly in switchgrass. The fast-growing perennial plant is paving the way for a sustainable source of Mirel, the company’s biodegradable brand of bioplastic.
Mirel is a versatile bioplastic with has many uses including food packaging, agricultural products, and consumer goods. It’s tough and durable, resistant to heat and hot liquids, and completely biodegrades when exposed to microbial activity in soil, marine environments, or compost piles.
Now Metabolix can make Mirel by combining genes of naturally occurring substances to produce a polyhydroxybutyrate (PHA) polymer that grows directly in switchgrass. As an added bonus, once the polymer has been harvested, the leftover plant can be used as a source for biomass energy. An efficient and versatile source of bioplastic such as this is sure to enable future generations of eco-friendly industrial design.